A year has gone by and you still feel like garbage – now what?
After a breakup, I like most people, feel like a shell of a woman, with no hope for a better future. The dread and emptiness you feel after a breakup, is subtly acknowledged — as in it’s the subject of every great work of art known to man — but publicly, it’s not an acceptable reason to like, skip work or not be a functional human being. You don’t get paid bereavement for the person you thought would be with you for the rest of your life leaving you for some chick you’ve never heard of. You don’t get to act like a basket-case at family dinners when your boyfriend decides he wants to move to Berlin for work. “He wasn’t your husband or anything — you are so young you’re going to meet so many guys.” Meeting guys isn’t the problem. The problem is that I want THAT guy, the one I lost, the one who was my best friend, the one I devoted years of my youth to, for (what now seems like) NO REASON. Every time one of my friends goes through a breakup, I’m surprised that they are surprised at the weight of the situation.
“It’s like, I just don’t want to sleep with anyone else…I want to call him every day, and I can’t believe I don’t get to hang out with his family anymore… and it’s just nuts, one day someone is there, and then they’re not.”
Yeah, breakups are INSANELY TRAGIC! Except unlike a death, you’re not allowed to be upset about it for too long, otherwise you’re “pathetic”. Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed my friends struggle with this issue. “I’m not feeling better yet. Why aren’t I feeling better yet?” and I’d like to tackle the question: How long are you supposed to feel like shit for after a breakup? And furthermore, who dictates what an acceptable amount of time to be sad for this kind of loss is?
Society tells us to “move on”. You know, that whole you go girl, you’re better than him, Elizabeth Taylor “Pour yourself a drink, put some lipstick on and pull yourself together” mentality. In part, this is the kind of mindset you have to have when any tragedy occurs — what’s done is done, and you can’t stop living over it. You have to move on.
However, I feel like there’s this pressure to FEEL BETTER, while you’re living your life.
Certain milestones pass, and the longer you’re sad, the more hopeless you feel. It’s been 6 months, now it’s been a year, now it’s been a year and a half, what’s wrong with me.
When my first boyfriend and I broke up, I met my second boyfriend 4 months later. I was hesitant to date him because I had just gotten out of a two year relationship, but I thought, why does my ex get to dictate how I live my life! Fuck it! I’m a game girl – I’m going for it! I went on to live under the delusion that I was over my ex, and publicly, that’s what it seemed like because I was dating someone new, and I was genuinely happy. But the dark truth was that even a year later, when my ex asked to have coffee at Christmas, I went. When he texted me, I responded. If he called, I would pick up. And I truly loved my new boyfriend, it had nothing to do with that — it had everything to do with the fact that the distraction of dating someone new made me kind of forget that I was still mourning a significant loss — and that doesn’t just go away because I’m “busy with other things.”
Although, in the above scenario, I was confused by my feelings. On one hand, it lined up with the narrative I always thought to be true — you get over people in a year-ish? On the other, I was kind of wondering how it was possible to whole heartedly feel two things at once: I love my current boyfriend, why do I still care if my ex calls me? Am I only ok with us being broken up because I’m distracted?
Three years later, when my second boyfriend and I broke up, I did not get the luxury of any distractions. I didn’t happen to meet someone new that I liked. I got very sick and had to adjust my job to work from home. I couldn’t drink as a result of my illness, so I didn’t get to go out with friends and drown my sorrows. Surprisingly (NOT), I didn’t meet anyone, I didn’t sleep with anyone, I was left alone. So I gave myself (what I thought) was a unrealistic scenario: If I still feel this miserable in a year, I’ll call him.
I told my friends of this plan, and they, like me, agreed that there is no way I would still feel like this in a year, and even though they hated my ex boyfriend, and supported my plan on the grounds that it probably wouldn’t end up happening anyway.
Well the joke was on everyone, because I did not talk to him for an entire year. I blocked him on everything, there were no snapchats, no Instagram games, no texts, no drunk calls, and a YEAR went by. And I felt THE EXACT SAME WAY. I felt as dead inside as I did the night we broke up. Jeez.
So I called him. We met up and started kind of seeing each other for a month or so. When the topic of where it was going came up, he literally said to me.
“Do you think I’ve changed?”
I knew the answer was no. The same went for me, I hadn’t changed, and I knew I hadn’t changed, and after all was said and done, I wondered: why did I think that ONE YEAR was some sort of magic number for getting over someone I loved and lost, for him growing up, for me growing up, for me NOT THINKING ABOUT HIM ANYMORE. Like 12 months would go by and on the 365th day, there would be a biological switch flipped in my brain, and suddenly he would become obsolete?
I have been single for a year and a half, and I am truly ok with it. I wake up every morning with a purpose, I’m thriving in my career, I’ve never looked better physically, I have better than ever relationships with my friends and family, I focus on areas of my life I never gave proper attention to before. But there are certain facts that still remain: I tried downloading Bumble, I wasn’t ready. There are still songs I can’t listen to. I don’t like when something reminds me of a good time we had. I don’t want to see a picture of him. I don’t want to run into him. I don’t want to call him and I don’t want him to call me. I went to a restaurant that we used to go to, and it bugged me. And when you lose your best friend, these things are allowed to bother you.
You can know all the things you are taught about breakups: it’s called a breakup because it’s broken, move on, live your life, don’t give that person so much credit — but while accepting those facts, you can also take the time to live your life in a way that slowly accommodates that, until you’re ready.
You know your mind and body better than any societal standard. There is a healthy and functional middle ground between being crippled by grief, and being completely over it.
And this isn’t to say you’ll be sad forever. You will get better! I thought I was going to die over my first boyfriend, and honest to God, I don’t think anyone could PAY me to care what that guy does. But that’s a conclusion I came to in my own time (and it took more than a year, it actually took closer to 2.5 years….fabulous!) So don’t get discouraged, and don’t feel pathetic. Losing someone is hard. You will feel better when YOU feel better, and don’t force yourself to do anything until it feels right, and while you’re waiting, you can still live a fulfilling life.